First the dab rig, then dab nail, then heat coil:
Considering the wide selection of dab gear combinations available today, you are probably a little confused on where to start. If you already have a dab rig, start with the nail. If you don’t, pretty much any rig or bong will do. Smaller is better to reduce premature oxidation of the dab. You can get a glass adapter later to fit various sizes and configurations together, but I would avoid 10mm unless you really love the rig. 14mm is pretty much the norm. 95% of the time.
The first thing to consider now is which dab nail do you want to use? There are many choices and mostly depend on dish size, flavor, durability, and budget. Are you going to be dropping a lot of monstrous globs and snakes in, medium sized dabs, or “grain sized” smaller dabs? The quartz banger holds bigger dabs than a dish style and is the most popular dab nail at this time.
I prefer SiC to quartz myself (for maintenance and flavor reasons). There are also many other styles of nails to choose from including Titanium and Ti/quartz hybrids. The main differences in nails to consider are durability, heat transfer (shape and material), dab size, flavor, and ease (or difficulty) of cleaning. The nail type will determine which heat coil you will get to match, so start here first.
20mm Quartz Banger Nail
A variety of specialized coil options are now the market, and it’s no wonder why so many are wondering which is best. Some of it really just comes down to preference, but there are some functional differences to note. A barrel shaped 20mm coil was the standard for years. This size is still preferred by some, however others like more surface area to get their “glob” on correctly. More surface area equals more of the dab reaching the hot surface at once, and a quicker, more even heat distribution. If doing larger dabs, using a 20mm banger may result in too little surface area to effectively and quickly heat that dab before it basically just dries up into an undesirable puddle on the dab surface.
Advantages and Disadvantage of 25mm vs. 30mm Bangers:
The larger bangers come in handy for reasons mentioned above. Of course, there can be drawbacks with a more massive banger such as: more mass on the perimeter of your rig = tipping. If you have a smaller rig, or it is just a little top-heavy, this could mean spills and/or fire hazards! There are ways to help prevent the tipping, fortunately. A larger banger also has a bigger heat coil, not only adding more weight/mass but also consuming a little more energy to get the larger banger heated fully.
Titanium Dab Nails
Even though quartz seems to be the most popular, there are some that still swear by Titanium products like the Liger banger. They say the heat transfer is faster and even prefer the flavor of Ti over quartz. I am not sure I completely agree. I will admit that sometimes I do miss the flavor of a Ti nail dab. It just melts differently– much more of a “hot” dab, which is nice once in a while. There are some that will always swear by their Ti, and some that are just plain tired of breaking their quartz every few weeks. For me, it’s a close match between Ti and quartz; but not even close compared to silicon carbide (SiC). SiC is a highly rugged metal-like material that is actually technically a ceramic. Read more about silicone carbide two sections down.
Grade 2 Ti
What is Grade 2 Ti? Grade two does not necessarily indicate any purity specifications. It is actually just a classification based on other material properties such as hardness and toughness. These are more to do with what forces they can withstand; not counting heat or chemical resistance. For purity ratings, look for the term “Medical Grade Ti”. This is the term that describes a Ti material with an extremely low impurity count. I personally prefer a hybrid Ti/quartz or SiC nail over using Ti, since the heated dab surface is quartz, but still has most of the durability of Ti. That way I can take advantage of the sturdy and easily adaptable base, yet have the heat and flavor characteristics of quartz.
Hybrid Ti/Quartz Nail:
The Ti/quartz hybrid is a handy nail which features the best of worlds. The Ti base has a screw body to accept a removable quartz dish on top, which allows for easy and cheap swapping of dab surface material. This also helps to provide easy access to the inside of the base when it comes time to clean out residue deposits. Dabbers who are more accident prone or who enjoy packing their kit for on the go dabs might prefer the durability and straight shape of this nail. It’s disassemble-able form allows for easy cleaning and facilitates safer transport in Peli cases or other similar weatherproof cases.
Ti/SiC Hybrid Nail:
The Ti/SiC hybrid is a handy nail which features a #topshelf premium ceramic material that resembles something out of Space Odyssey 2020. SiC stands for silicon (without the e) carbide. SiC is a beautiful ceramic material which is truly like no other dab surface. In fact, you probably wouldn’t believe it if you saw it because it seems so much like a metal material to the touch. Silicon carbide has crazy thermal properties that allow it to take on and radiate heat faster than both quartz and Titanium — plus it’s very tough and durable. Even though it is technically a ceramic it really feels and looks like a metal.
Above all, my favorite part about SiC is the Isopropyl-free (water) cleaning method works so much easier on SiC compared to quartz. I am still amazed how it still seems like new on the dab surface (although I have let some black deposits build up pretty bad on the outside of the nail, admittedly. After I do my easy cleaning procedure with a few drops of water and #lowtemps this thing comes out almost brand new again every time! Hands down it’s the easiest nail to restore near-perfect flavor that I have experienced so far. The only surface material type I have not tested is Sapphire. It’s just too expensive and delicate for my taste knowing that the flavor is not significantly better than SiC. Silicon carbide is the best balance between quality and price by a long shot, and the best kept secret in dabbing, by far IMO.
Now let’s look at heating coils:
Before we go any further, we absolutely need to hammer down wiring compatibility. If you are buying a full set, don’t worry — they will match. However if you are buying part of a set here and the other parts there, it’s very important to match the wiring order on the plugs. So if you already have either a dab nail, heating coil, or e-nail controller and/or ever replace one part or another, the plug’s wiring order must match. This means the wires connected to the 5 pins on your XLR plug for the heating coil need to be the same as on your e-nail controller. Even though they look like the heat coil and e-nail should match, often times the wires are switched around and this can make bad things happen. To find your wiring order, check out this XLR plug matching guide.
Flat Heating Coils:
Pictured (left) is a flat coil, which is normally seated directly underneath a dab surface and wedged in between that and the bottom of the nail body like a hamburger. The coil is sandwiched in-between the Ti nail and the SiC dish on top of the nail. Normally a fastening nut is screwed into a center post which goes through the middle of the flat coil shown here. Flat coils seem to be preferred over barrel style heat coils by many enail owners. This is because a flat coil heats the bottom surface much more directly than a barrel style e-nail coil. Since heat rises, this is the most direct and efficient method of delivery for heat through the dab surface.
Axial Style Coils
Most dabbers today seem to default to bangers. The barrel style with bottom wraps works the best for a banger. This barrel style coil is sometimes called axial style (even though that just means round). The axial style barrel coil have bottom wraps which directly heat the bottom of the dab surface, along with the side walls. A standard barrel coil will work just fine as well; but you will be turning the temps up just a little bit more to get everything vaporized (unless you have the “waste it to taste it” philosophy).
Barrel vs. Axial Style Coils
Do you plan on upgrading or replacing heat coils or dab nails in the not-too-distant future? Replacements are inevitable in the long-run, although no heat coil should last any less than a couple of years of regular use.
For budget users that want to get the most flavor (and clean-ability) for their money, the SiC hybrid Ti nails work amazingly. I do mean amazingly! I’ve been using mine for almost a year and it still comes almost totally clean after a super quick water-treatment (see instructions here). The quartz Ti hybrids are also great since you can easily upgrade to the SiC dish and/or swap out different dishes in the future. A flat coil is the only type that properly fits the nails mentioned above.
Most importantly, you need a dabber tool. In my opinion, it’s worth it to find a good dabber and capper all-in-one combo, just because it’s more convenient not having to switch tools mid-dab. This isn’t really a big deal obviously and you can easily get used to using two separate tools. You may even prefer it, since many combos lack the function that say a riptide capper, directional capper, or bubble capper is able to offer.
Dab Tool Selection Tip:
As far as the dabber side of the tool, it’s best to have a point on the end, or else the dab can want to stick onto the colder metal or glass (especially glass) and just melt/stick to the side of the tool. This can get a little wasteful and aggravating. One tool that I really like which is sort of a best of both worlds tool would be the Happy Daddy “Grindson“. This not only has a pointy end but also the flatter end is great for collecting rosin. I personally think they should call it the “Rosinson” but it does work well to clear keif out of a flower grinder as well.
Dab Tool Selection Tip 2: Insert Height
Keep in mind the height of your insert matters if you have a capper (or want to get one) that has a rotating air spigot of some sort (like a bubble or directional style capper tool). It can get too tall. Also, it works better if the top of the insert does not reach past the intake hole inside the quartz banger.
Inserts: Quartz, SiC, Ruby
Inserts perform at least two important functions. The first is helping to keep a banger clean for longer, since it is removable. If you are into high temp dabs and are using an enail you’ll find that the steady heat contributes too dry, crusty build-up, which ruins the flavor if not regularly cleared. With low temp dabs this is less of an issue as long as it’s q-tipped after the dab. With new materials like SiC and Ruby, you can get away with a more lax cleaning regimen, as well as higher temps. There are many premium dab surfaces out there today. The good news: you don’t need to replace teh whole nail. Just pop one of these in and you just extended your cleaning by a whole lot! The insert can be removed using a tweezers after the dab so you don’t have to wait an hour to make sure it’s cool enough to handle..
Terp pearls serve two functions: #dabstagram videos (just kidding!), increased surface area, and heat efficiency. If you think about the surface area as being the available amount of heat that can be quickly transferred, more is better. If the dab bubbles up for too long most of it will just dry up instead of delivering those sweet, sweet cannabinoids.
Said another way: you want the dab to be touching the hot surface rather than boiling on itself. More surface area can be achieved two ways: a wider banger, or adding terp pearls/dab beads. Normally they come in quartz, sometimes borosilicate or silicon carbide.
Holders, Bands, and Stands
These are items that on one hand are not crucial (say in dire situations or desperate circumstances), but if you want to do it right they are very crucial to making the experience as it should be. For one, if you are planning on using your banger with an electric heat coil, you will need a way to hold the coil up on the banger and keep it from falling off during use. This obviously is pretty important, but thankfully you may even have something around the house to tie you over.
Axial Banger Coil Holders: Ties, Bands, Clips, and Pins
The easiest way to hold a banger coil up is to use a twist tie (but only the metal part in the middle. The paper, or plastic cover is fairly easy to strip off, giving you a free banger holder next time you stop by your local grocers and buy that mango-a-day to terp up your entourage effect. There are also now many professional versions on the market, but I would stay away from the built-in solutions (like the side arms on the bangers).
They need to be positioned really precisely in order to make decent contact and if you were to put the arm in the perfect place you basically then wouldn’t be able to fit the coil on without breaking the arm back off or making a removable arm. It has to with the geometry of it and a little hard to explain. The best solutions are removable and/or adjustable banger bands/holders, and clips. These allow you to strap your axial coil right up to the banger stem. You can even use more than one to get that perfect, leveled fit.
If you already topped your budget out on the above parts and accessories but still need a q-tip caddy, have no fear! Although q-tip holders are necessary for quick access to q-tips, you can easily make your own DIY q-tip holder out of recycled materials. It’s easy to make a quick q-tip holder out of a pop top dispensary container that you normally get your flower in. Just “decapitate” the top, rinse, dry, and pop in your tips! “Presto-Change-O”!
Capper, Dabber, & Nail Stands
Stands and holders are great to have so you always have your dab tools in one spot and ready to grab at any time. You can save some time running reclaim off of the table or other dab station surface, because the tools can be kept elevated to keep from touching other objects. Save time torching by leaving one nail soaking, one being used, and two ready to be switched out.
Dab Mats, Pads, and Coasters
The main purpose of a dab mat is to have a nice soft base to set down your glass. If your dab rig is small enough and you are worried it might get knocked over you can get a mat that is big enough to protect the glass in the event that it does tip over. The secondary purpose of a dab mat is to protect your table from oil drips, smudges, and stains. Third, is for extra heady aesthetics, as seen in the rad and original art work of Roilty.